For a US president who was propelled to the White House in 2008 with the largest margin in both popular and electoral votes in 12 years, his struggle for reelection is a revelation.
By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Barack Obama has been reelected after a hotly-contested presidential elections in the US. Up to yesterday, it was still a neck-to-neck race. And both Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney were still aggressively courting votes in swing states up to the eve of the elections.
For a US president who was propelled to the White House in 2008 with the largest margin in both popular and electoral votes in 12 years, his struggle for reelection is a revelation. In 2008, Obama defeated John McCain by garnering 365 electoral votes as against the latter’s 173 and with a winning margin of more than nine million popular votes. This time, some analysts project that the final results would be around 300 electoral votes for Obama to Romney’s 200+.
The last elections where a presidential candidate in the US won by a large margin was in 1996 when Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole with 379 electoral votes versus Dole’s 159, with a winning margin of more than eight million popular votes.
As those familiar with US presidential elections already know, while US citizens vote for a candidate, what is decisive is the electoral vote. Each state is allotted with a certain number of electoral votes depending on the population. There are 538 electoral votes in the US. The number of electoral votes that a party garners would determine the number of their delegates to the electoral college, which will vote for the president.
Obama’s fading star could be traced to his administration’s failure to solve the economic crisis, generate jobs, and deliver on his promise of change. Instead of helping the majority of US citizens to cope with the crisis through job generation and reversing the privatization of social services, he continued with the bail out of banks began by the Bush administration. He did not veer away from the neoliberal economic policies that resulted in the crisis that imploded in 2008 and caused sufferings among majority of US citizens. While he pulled out a substantial number of US troops from Iraq, he increased the deployment in Afghanistan.
Obama did deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform with the signing of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. While being touted as the most significant reform that Obama delivered, the law did not bring back the erstwhile free health services being given to US citizens. In its stead the law provides federal subsidies to small companies so that these could provide medical insurance to employees, and to low-income individuals and families above 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level; expanded the coverage of Medicaid to include individuals and families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level; prohibited insurance companies from refusing coverage of preexisting conditions; and required individuals not covered by employer sponsored health plans, Medicaid (for poor people under designated eligibility groups) or Medicare (for those 65 years old and above and young people with disabilities) to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Thus, it is basically a compromise that did not alter the health care system dominated by private health insurance companies.
Despite Obama’s failed promise of change, he still won because not only did Romney not offer any significant policy alternative, he represented something worse: declaring that he would repeal Obama’s already-compromised health care act and reduce federal spending on Medicare and other federal programs; adheres to the principle of Reagonomics of cutting taxes, especially on corporations, purportedly to bring about economic growth; endorses eliminating the minimum wage; vows to make it easier for oil companies to drill for oil and rejects the Kyoto protocol; would tighten immigration control; and bring back the bellicose ways of the Bush administration.
However, if Obama’s first term is to be the gauge, no significant change could be expected despite his message of hope in his victory speech.
Obama was said to be only the second Democratic president who was reelected after World War II, the other being Bill Clinton. This reflects a strong conservative current among the American people. But now, amid the crisis and failed promises of Obama, the American people still rejected the person who represents the blatantly conservative Republican Party and its principles. This is where the glimmer of hope lies: in the yearning for change and rejection of conservative principles; and ultimately, in the actions for change, which include workers’ strikes and growth of the mass movement.